Source: CEV. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, awarded the members of the Slovenian men’s Volleyball team with a national honour, the Order of Merit, which the two-time EuroVolley silver medallists received for their inspiring sporting achievements, for helping cement Slovenia’s status on the world sports scene as well as for strengthening national pride.
The ceremony took place at the Presidential Palace in Ljubljana, and the captain of the national team, Tine Urnaut accepted the award.
“This exceptional group of players dedicated many years to our national team. They never gave up fighting and dreaming, even when things did not go as planned. They persevered, walked this solid and steep path, and brought extraordinary joy to us and to the whole Slovenian nation. I am very proud to be at the head of this federation and I know that these boys will wear this Order of Merit with just the same pride,” commented the President of the Volleyball Federation of Slovenia, Metod Ropret.
Alberto Giuliani, the head coach of Team Slovenia, could not attend the ceremony but was very happy when receiving the news: “Although quite some time has passed since our success, I am very happy that the Slovenian President still remembers all the beautiful matches we played in Stožice Arena and in front of our fans. I am honoured that this team received this important award and I hope that this will be just one of a series of awards that the boys will earn.”
Tine Urnaut, the long-time captain of the national team, was very emotional in his speech: “Many thanks to the President for this high recognition, and at the same time thanks to the Volleyball Federation of Slovenia and especially to Metod Ropret. Without him, we would not be standing here today. Many thanks go to our staff, to everyone who made it possible for us to play the championship in front of such fantastic fans. I would like to thank all the teammates who trained day after day all these years, also when there were no results, when we were disappointed and when we were returning to our clubs year after year sad and broken. In the end, it somehow paid off. A really big, big thank you goes to all our fans, to the Slovenian people, who stood by our side during the European Championship. When we were standing in front of 13,000 fans who sang Zdravljica [Slovenia’s national anthem] a cappella, we knew that matches in Stožice Arena were already decided. I know we will carry these memories in our hearts for the rest of our lives.”
Slovenia claimed silver at last year’s EuroVolley losing to Serbia in the grand finale held in Paris, after delivering a series of terrific performances on home soil, where they beat reigning European champions Russia and world champions Poland in the quarterfinals and semi-finals on their way to reaching the title-deciding match.